Skip to main content

Nicola Wheten - fighting for her community

  1. Home
  2. News and Events
  3. News, Features, Events and Campaigns
  4. Nicola Wheten - fighting for her community

Sport is having life-changing effects on communities across Wales thanks to the extraordinary efforts of volunteers like Nicola Wheten. 

In her day job, you’ll find Nicola working for the Fire Service. But a fire ignited within her in 2021 when she went to train at Apollos Boxing Club in Cardiff.

Less than two years later, Nicola is now a coach at Apollos and is the driving force behind the club moving from being a male-dominated environment to a safe space that welcomes women of all ages. 

Working in tandem with Carl Stephens – the club’s legendary coach and mentor to Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Owain Harris-Allan – Nicola has helped to transform Apollos. 

Nicola’s impact on the local community in Llanedeyrn and Pentwyn was even recognised by her winning the Sport Wales sponsored ‘Women in Sport’ category at Chwarae Teg’s 2023 Womenspire Awards.

Nicola Wheten smiling in the boxing gym.

Nicola says: “I would never have imagined myself boxing. You don’t often see people like me doing it, but I wanted a challenge and something completely out of my comfort zone. It’s the best thing I’ve done, for myself and for the people around me.”

So how did Nicola get more women into the club? A mixture of persuasion and literally dragging them there!

“To begin with, I reached out to friends and family, knocking on their doors to drag them down to the club,” Nicola explained.

“Most of them were unsure but once they stepped foot in that ring, they found a new confidence in themselves and could feel the support and positivity within the club. I take a lot of pride in helping empower people to believe in themselves. It’s about building that sense of safety and building trust with us as coaches and within themselves so they are happy and healthy.”

“I put a lot of time, energy and tears into this club thanks to the support of my amazing husband. For me, being able to support our members who come from all sorts of different walks of life and show them that they are capable, they are strong, and they are brilliant is what motivates me to continue the work I do.

“We are changing people’s lives, building their resilience, increasing their confidence, giving them skills that help them become stronger individuals. Without this club, some of these members would be in a very different situation now. For some, this club is a lifeline.

“It’s been a personal journey and I wanted to share that with females. There are a lot of females I knew who could benefit from being in this environment. That sense of belonging and family and having that safe space to just be you.”

Eighteen months ago, Apollos Boxing Club was on the verge of closure – a struggling club with limited membership, and little funds. Fast forward to now, and the transformation led by Nicola and other volunteers is nothing short of remarkable. 

With a fast growing membership, they have evolved into a thriving community club. As a club situated in one of the most disadvantaged areas of South Wales, it’s really important to Nicola that Apollos uses the power of sport to support and guide its members away from negative influences, crime and ‘county lines’.

The team provide specialised training sessions for women and girls, making sure that training is adapted to suit different levels and that women and girls feel welcome in the club. Beyond that, they have also undergone disability inclusion training, ensuring that Apollos Boxing is accessible to the entire community. 

Gareth Evans, Head of Community Boxing at Welsh Boxing says, “We’re very grateful at WABA for the continued efforts that Nicola has brought to Apollos. Her positive effect is clear for all to see, and the club plays a massive role across the wider community. As a sport, our club network depends on driven individuals like Nicola and boxing is very fortunate to have such individuals across its wider community.”

Owen Hathway, Sport Wales’ Assistant Director to Insights, Policy and Public Affairs said: “Thanks to the efforts of Nicola and her fellow volunteers, Apollos is the perfect example of how sport can have such a positive effect on people’s lives. 

“Volunteers such as Nicola make a huge impact. We estimate that sport volunteers in Wales provide the equivalent of £430m worth of labour every year. Sport as we know it wouldn’t be possible without them, and we are extremely grateful for their contribution. 

“For anyone who is considering becoming a volunteer, it’s worth noting how much Nicola and others gain from what they do. Helping others also makes you feel better – it’s a win win situation.”